Early Gainsborough: ‘From the obscurity of a Country Town’ by Mark Bills and Rica Jones


Early Gainsborough: ‘From the obscurity of a Country Town’ brings to light years of research into the early life of Thomas Gainsborough, RA (1727–1788) in this beautifully illustrated book. The story of how a burgeoning and enthusiastic boy became one of the greatest artists of any age.

Written by Mark Bills, Director of Gainsborough’s House, and winner of the Best General Publication Award 2020 in the Cultural Enterprises Awards.

“Fantastic first-time self-publication, beautifully designed”

Longlisted for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History 2019

285 x 230mm


120 pages, with 115 pages of colour illustrations

Published by Gainsborough’s House Society

All purchases support Gainsborough’s House

Gift Wrap Design

Thomas Gainsborough message card (£3.00)

Gift Wrap Design

Thomas Gainsborough message card (£3.00)

Remaining/Maximum Characters: 100/100


‘Murder most foul: Gainsborough family revenge killings trigger reassessment of artist’s early years’
The Art Newspaper

With over 100 illustrations, the book looks again at the surviving accounts and brings forward new ones, including the sensational murder story revealed for the first time, to give a context for the early life of Gainsborough. The second section looks at what we can glean from the material evidence of the fabric of the paintings he made earlier in his life and focuses upon Gainsborough’s early practice as an artist. Two appendices reproduce in full the obituaries that appeared shortly after Gainsborough’s death in August 1788 and the death threats received by Gainsborough’s family in 1738.

‘Mr. Boydell bought the large Landskip [Cornard Wood] …,’ Gainsborough wrote, which was ‘in some respects a little in the schoolboy stile… this picture was actually painted at Sudbury, in the year 1748: it was begun before I left school; – and was the means of my Father’s sending me to London.’ Thomas Gainsborough

ISBN: 978-0-946511-64-8